How to Protect Your Car’s Interior in Summer

Convertible parked in the sunshine

Source | Christopher Windus

Summer is upon us, and the streets are heating up. That means it’s time to prep your car for the hottest time of year. Of course you should perform all the regular summer maintenance, including checking and swapping tires, changing fluids, and making sure your AC is ready to deal with climbing temperatures. But how should you prep the interior of your vehicle? Follow these steps, and your ride will be ready to take the heat.

Clean your carpet and swap your floor mats

With heat comes baked-in smells. Wet carpeting can be a breeding ground for mold and mildew and lead to mystery stinks in the heat of the summer. That coffee you spilled in the winter? You can almost guarantee that you’ll be faced with a spoiled-milk odor come summer. So how do you battle it? It’s time to do a deep carpet cleaning and get that stuff out before it becomes entrenched. Pick up a carpet cleaner and go to town on those grimy footwells.

Your floor mats will also need a bit of love and attention. After all, they do more than catch the grime and dirt you cart in each time you get in and out. They protect the interior from getting wet and smelly, too. Clean off your mats and consider investing in some all-weather mats. These not only catch ice and snow in the winter but also capture sand, dirt, and rocks that accumulate after, say, a trip to the beach or a hike in the mountains. A pair of them can be picked up for under $60, and they will help keep the interior of your car much cleaner this summer.

Sun through the driver's window

Source | JD Weiher

Treat your seats

If you have leather or leatherette seats, you know the torture of sitting in a sunbaked chair inside a car that’s been parked in the sun. Your seats are just absorbing all those UV rays, and that can be incredibly damaging for prolonged periods.

Your best bet is to invest in some good leather cleaner and conditioner. The chemicals in these cleaners will help keep your leather and leatherette supple and soft, even in the heat. Think of it like sunscreen for your seats.

We also recommend that you invest in seat covers for those super-hot days. They’ll protect your seats from the sun and your posterior from the inevitable burn of flesh on hot leather. There are a variety of styles, colors, and fits, available.

Cover your dash

Even if you park your car inside a garage, you could benefit from investing in a UV blanket or sunscreen to cover your front and rear decks. The sun beats down on these two spots relentlessly and can eventually crack, fade, or damage the plastic or leather in both those spots in short order. It’s best to invest in a windshield shade to protect the front dash and seats when you park in a sunny spot. If you want to just focus on protecting the dash, check out dash covers. Each vehicle’s dash is different, so be sure to put your vehicle make and model into the search box to find the right one for your car.

Get it made in the shade

One of the best protections for the interior of your car is also the lowest-tech: Try to park in the shade when you can. This will help your vehicle avoid the sun’s harmful rays and keep things much cooler for when you climb back in.

What are your summer-car-care rituals? Tell us your tips in the comments.

Forefixers: The Innovators Who Brought Air Conditioning to Your Car

Air conditioning console in vehicle

Source | Mike/Pexels

Unless you’ve owned a car with a broken air conditioning system, it’s hard to imagine having to slog through the long, hot summer in a vehicle that’s just as hot inside as everything else is outside. We treasure our cool climate, whether in the home, the office, or somewhere in between at the wheel of our cars. But air conditioning is a relatively modern invention—about half as old as the car itself. So who were the early contributors to our freedom from summer’s brutal reign? Read on to find out.

Black and white photo of Willis Carrier in front of a large machine

Source | Carrier

Willis Carrier

The most important figure in any discussion of air conditioning in the modern sense is undoubtedly Willis Carrier. Yes, that Carrier—there’s a good chance your home’s A/C unit bears his name.

In 1902, Carrier invented the first modern electrical air conditioning unit. Carrier’s impetus for figuring out the electric-powered air conditioner was to improve the quality and uniformity of specialized printing runs for a printing plant. As a result, the systems that created the cool air were large, bulky, and had little potential for any other use.

It would take a little more than a decade for the wealthiest Americans to begin installing the first air conditioning units in their private homes. But it would be several decades before others managed to engineer a solution small enough to fit in a car, yet effective enough to be worth the hassle.

Photo portrait of Thomas Midgley Jr.

Thomas Midgley Jr. Source | Creative Commons

Thomas Midgley Jr.

Carrier’s air conditioning design used cold water in the cooling portion of the device, but that only allowed a small potential for cooling the ambient air. To get much colder air temperatures, and do it quicker, pressurized refrigerants were necessary. That’s where controversial inventor Thomas Midgley Jr. came in.

While pressurized refrigerant air conditioners had been created and used before, it was Midgley who found a way to use a nontoxic, nonflammable refrigerant to keep things cool. Previous systems had used dangerous chemicals like propane or ammonia, but Midgley’s system used Freon, or R12 as it’s also known. R12 powered the first automobile air conditioning systems, and that same refrigerant would continue in use in the U.S. until 1994, when R12 was banned and replaced with R134a, due to R12’s environmental hazards.

Edward L. Mayo

Even though the air conditioning scene for buildings and other enterprises was going gangbusters, it wasn’t until 1938 that a serious attempt to provide air conditioning for cars was patented. That year, Edward L. Mayo, working for the Bishop & Babcock Mfg. Company of Cleveland, Ohio, applied to patent the Bishop & Babcock Weather Conditioner. The system included not only an air conditioner but a heater, too.

Mayo’s design was innovative, and, for the time, very compact. Still, it took up considerable space in the vehicle’s interior, typically occupying a significant portion of the available trunk space. It was also expensive and didn’t have any temperature controls other than an on-off switch. As a result, the system never gained much widespread use and was eventually discontinued.

Vintage air conditioning ad

Nils Erik Wahlberg & Joseph F. Sladky

Another decade and a half passed before the next big advance in air conditioning arrived, by way of the Nash-Kelvinator company and its engineers, Nils Erik Wahlberg and Joseph F. Sladky. Filed in 1950, and approved in 1954, the patent showed an automobile air conditioning system that put all of the components required to manage the cabin air temperature under the hood and cowling. They were tucked away from the passenger and cargo space, meaning the system required no real compromise.

It was called the All-Weather Eye—less expensive and easier to assemble and install than previous systems. And unlike its predecessors, the All-Weather Eye didn’t drive the air conditioning compressor continuously, whether it was being used or not. Instead, it used an electrically operated clutch to engage or disengage the compressor as needed—just like on modern air conditioning systems. That innovation meant less power was diverted from driving the car, improving acceleration and gas mileage when the A/C wasn’t in use.

Future forefixers

The air conditioning system is still undergoing upgrades and changes. We’ve seen the introduction of two-, three-, and even four-zone climate control within a car’s cabin, as well as systems for electric cars and hybrids that minimize the function of the air conditioning under certain conditions to improve efficiency. There’s even an industrywide move to switch from the current refrigerant, R134a, to an even safer, more environmentally friendly alternative, due to take effect in parts of the world by 2018.

In 100 years, there’s no doubt we’ll have many more forefixers to add to this list.

Do you know of any more air conditioning forefixers? Let us know in the comments.

The Difference Between Ceramic and Semi-Metallic Brake Pads

Source | William Clifford/Flickr

Brake pads are the unsung hero of modern motoring, able to stop your heavy vehicle by converting kinetic (motion) energy into heat. It’s simple, yet brilliant technology. The pads contact the brake rotor and create enough friction to slow down even a Dodge Demon.

Back in the 1950s, when discs started to replace drums, brake pads were made out of asbestos. The material was cheap, quiet, and worked well at dissipating heat, but the brake dust was linked to lung cancer. Fortunately for us all, there are now a lot of excellent affordable brakes that don’t have health implications. Here’s how to narrow down your options when shopping for new brake pads.

Going organic

Organic pads were the first to replace asbestos. Made of various organic compounds like carbon, glass, rubber, and even Kevlar, organic pads are quiet even when cold and quickly heat up to their ideal operating temperature. Still, they have several shortcomings (see below) and have been largely replaced.

Strengths:

  • Organic pads are inexpensive. Everyone likes saving money.
  • Silence. The compounds are soft, translating to a quiet contact with the rotor.
  • Fine for everyday driving.

Weaknesses:

  • Again, organic pads are soft, so they are quick to wear out. While they’re inexpensive, you will have to replace them more often, so organics might not actually save you money.
  • Soft compound translates to a squishy pedal feel.
  • Easily overheated, so these aren’t for performance driving or towing.

With all the drawbacks, you might be wondering why organic pads are still made. The truth is, they are similar to why we have brake drums on modern cars. Organic pads and brake drums are totally outclassed and a bit rare these days, but they still work well enough. The tooling was paid for long ago, making them incredibly cheap to manufacture and sell, with pad sets often priced under $20. If you need basic brakes for your commute in your Toyota Corolla, organic pads will work.

Heavy metal

Wearever semi-metallic brake pads

While organics will generally stop a car, their weaknesses are serious enough that engineers keep looking for better brakes. Semi-metallic pads were the answer, first appearing with the larger and more powerful cars of the ’60s. With iron, steel, copper, and graphite in the friction material, semi-metallic pads have more bite and can stand up to a wide range of temperatures.

Strengths:

  • Semi-metallic pads offer improved brake performance compared to organics.
  • The harder material gives firmer pedal feel.
  • A wider operating range means a more heat tolerant pad that can stand up to heavy-duty work.

Weaknesses:

  • Semi-metallic pads need a proper break-in process for best performance.
  • They are more expensive than organic pads.
  • The metal-on-metal contact means some unavoidable brake dust, and more noise versus organic.

Semi-metallic pads are a great all-around choice if you live in the mountains, regularly tow, see any kind of racing, or just want a solid pad for everyday driving. Yes, there is a very slight price increase over organics, but “you get what you pay for” certainly applies here.

Definitely not fine china

Wearever ceramic brake pads

Just because these pads are ceramic, don’t assume they are like your aunt’s delicate tea sets. First appearing in the 1980s, these pads are more of a hardcore ceramic, like the heat shields on the space shuttles. The inorganic, earthen elements offer some improvements over the semi-metallic design, but they aren’t for everyone.

Strengths:

  • Ceramic pads are the longest-lasting pads you can buy.
  • They’re quieter than semi-metallic pads and offer better heat rejection.
  • Less brake dust than semi-metallic or organic, and the dust doesn’t stick to wheels.

Weaknesses:

  • The most expensive pad.
  • Some noise when cold, not the best choice for cold climates.
  • Not as heavy duty as semi-metallic, so not the choice for racing or towing.

Ceramic pads have become the standard OEM pad for modern cars, and it’s easy to see why. While they are typically the most expensive pad, drivers like the long life and lack of brake dust.

What to buy

When choosing between semi-metallic or ceramic, it’s best to stick with what the manufacturer put in the caliper. If it was semi-metallic in your Ford F-250, go with that option again. If your Honda Accord had ceramics from the factory, buy new ceramic pads.

When replacing organic pads, feel free to upgrade to either semi-metallic or ceramic, as they are both noticeable improvements in every measurable way.

Have a favorite type of brake pad? Let us know what stops you in your tracks in the comments below.

Crucial Cars: Ford Bronco

Cream colored classic Ford Bronco

Source | Andrew Duthie/Flickr

Over the last 50 years, dozens of SUVs and off-roaders debuted only to become stuck in the ruts and mud holes of history, forgotten. There are very few legends in this arena, but the Ford Bronco name recalls off-road fun in an affordable and efficient package. For 30 years, the Bronco was a Spartan, capable vehicle that was everything the modern flabby crossover isn’t: awesome.

1966: Creating a legend

1966 Ford Bronco

1966 Ford Bronco, Source | Valder 137

Ford fans will recognize the names Lee Iacocca and Donald Frey as fathers of the massively successful Ford Mustang. Iacocca liked small vehicles and Frey was riding high after huge Mustang sales numbers, so the pair tried again with what was conceived as an off-road Mustang. Lightning struck twice.

The only real competition of the time came from the Jeep CJ, whose ancient design harked back to the WWII military Jeep. It looked great, but was cramped inside and down on power. Ford solved both issues with its 1966 Bronco. Larger inside but still compact externally, the Bronco could be fitted with the same engine as the Mustang, a 289 V8. The CJ didn’t offer any size V8. Available in truck, convertible, and wagon forms, the innovative design of the Bronco could adapt to drivers’ outdoor needs.

The Bronco wasn’t just more powerful; it was all-around better. Instead of harsh-riding solid axles and leaf springs up front, the first-generation Bronco had coil springs and a three-link-style suspension for better on-road handling, but was still capable and durable when mudding. Later, the truck gained the 302 V8 and an automatic.

With just minor changes over the 11-year first generation, the Bronco gradually lost sales to bigger competition. Still, collectors consider the last ’76–’77 trucks some of the most sought-after Broncos. These years gained factory options like heavy-duty Dana 44 axles, power steering, and power disc brakes, all making the late first-gens comfortable on-road and durable off-road. The early Bronco was one steed that wouldn’t let you down.

1978: A full-size workhorse

1978_ford_bronco_front

Source | Magley64

The second generation was brief, at only two years. Why a full redesign for such a short time? The original Bronco was uncompetitive by the time it left the market, outgunned by vehicles like the Chevrolet Blazer and International Harvester Scout II. A larger, more powerful, and heavier-duty Bronco was in the works but had been delayed due to the ’70s gas crunch. Ford didn’t want to look irresponsible debuting a monster truck when gas was at a shocking dollar per gallon.

Once the supply crunch passed, the 1978 Bronco hit the streets and dirt trails. Essentially a half-ton F-100 truck with a shortened frame and a removable hardtop canopy over the bed, the Bronco was larger than its predecessor in every way, including under the hood. The base engine was a 351M, which was cool and all, but wrong for those penny-pinching times. The 400 V8 was available for extra cash, as the biggest engine available in any generation Bronco. It didn’t have to stop there, though—since Ford dumped the huge 460 V8 into all kinds of cars and trucks in the late ’70s, a 460 would drop right in. As is, the second-generation Bronco was an ogre on the street but could overpower hills, mud, and rocks when off-roading.

1980: Downsized and upscale

The 1980s were a different time and saw economy introduced across the range of models, including large cars, SUVs, and trucks. The third-generation Bronco was built on the new seventh-generation F-150 chassis, and parts sharing continued. Downsized in external dimensions and available engines, the Bronco gained an inline six as the base engine. It was somewhat fuel efficient but lacked the ponies for towing. The 302 and 351M were optional for the V8 crowd. The independent front suspension helped road manners, and the interior was quieter and almost civil. The removable hardtop continued, as did seating for six, but competitors with four doors were starting to gain ground, and the Bronco was a bit softer than previous versions.

 

1987: Continued refinement

1987-91_Ford_Bronco

1987 Ford Bronco, Source | IFCAR

In 1987, another new truck meant another generation of Bronco. This time underpinned by the F-150, the Bronco gained subtle front-end aerodynamic tricks and a complete redesign of the interior. Unfortunately, the same cubic-inch options continued, with a straight six, 302, and 351W. These were the digital Broncos, offering fuel injection. Enthusiasts cheered when transmissions gained a gear, getting to four speeds in the automatic and a five speed for the manual. The 1991 25th anniversary showed the Bronco getting old and Ford not caring. Rather than going hardcore on a retro 4×4 with monster capability, Ford offered red paint and leather. A flashy and comfy steed, but mainly marginalized.

1992 practicality and out to pasture

1992-96_Ford_Bronco

1992 Ford Bronco, Source | IFCAR

The 1992 Bronco was handsome, if tame looking. With buyers less interested in gas mileage, model bloat was not an issue, and the Bronco porked it on up to 4,600 pounds. Still, there were some standouts in the fifth generation. 1996 is the winner here, as it had OBD2 for easy tuning and troubleshooting, and cool mirrors with turn indicators in the side mirror glass. The 351W was the choice for solid towing, with manual hubs, quad shocks, and tow package for possibly the best ’90s all-around SUV.

While a great rig, the Bronco lost ground to the Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon, and their reliable and quiet all-metal construction. The Bronco’s removable roof was awesome fun, but NVH suffered with wind noise, squeaks, and rattles. Power was adequate from the aging V8s, but gas mileage was terrible, seeing 20 MPG downhill. The two-door design looked great, but proved less popular than four-doors like Grand Wagoneer and Suburban. Buyers wanted looks but bought convenience. Outclassed as an on-roader, Ford dropped the Bronco for the clean-sheet four-door Expedition in 1997.

Rumors and Return

So if it was outclassed and inconvenient, why did the Bronco matter and why are its competitors mostly forgotten? It was a cheap and simplistic vehicle that was ready to take you on an adventure, any time you wanted to go. The idea of a fun, affordable off-roader is what people remember, rather than the rattles and poor gas mileage. Add some nostalgia, great stories, and experiences from owners, and it’s no wonder the Bronco is still talked about today.

After years of rumors, internet claims, and even a couple of concept trucks and infamous renderings, Ford confirmed at the 2017 North American International Auto Show that the Bronco will return in 2020. We do know it will be built on the same platform as the new Ford Ranger, but details are still under wraps as of this writing.

Enthusiasts hope for a capable compact that can take on the modern CJ, the Jeep Wrangler. Corporate bean counters want the cheapest vehicle with readily available parts, so it may end up looking like a new Ranger with seats in back. Or it could be a mix of something in between, capable and corporate, like Toyota’s FJ Cruiser. Ford just has to remember the original idea: simple, charismatic, honest, and fun. It worked before, and the Bronco just might be a hit again.

Ever driven a Bronco? Did it weasel its way into your heart? Tell us why in the comments!

How Big Trucks Got Better Fuel Economy

2011 Ford F-150. Source | Creative Commons

It’s no secret that we Americans love our trucks, and that love is unlikely to dwindle any time soon. This love story has had its ups and downs though, with its intensity mostly affected by fluctuating gas prices. (See: 2005, when truck sales took a nosedive in light of spiking gas prices and many truck owners turned to more compact, fuel-efficient cars to save some money.)

But as soon as oil prices started to drop sharply, truck sales picked right back up. Still, automakers are well aware that gas won’t stay cheap forever, and that the minute it becomes substantially more expensive, they’ll see a new sales slump.

That realization, along with tightening federal fuel economy standards, has motivated manufacturers to produce pickup trucks that have much better gas mileage than they used to. So how are they managing to build more fuel-efficient trucks without sacrificing their size, strength, and performance? Here’s a look at the solutions they’ve put in place.

Turbocharging

One of the most effective measures has been the addition of turbocharged engines. Usually used in high-performance sports cars up until a few years ago, turbochargers can now be found in many pickup trucks and SUVs. Ford’s turbocharged EcoBoost engine in the F-150 is one of the most notable instances. When Ford first introduced the EcoBoost technology in the 2011 F-150, it brought the truck’s combined mpg from 16 mpg to 18, surpassing practically all of its competitors.

Turbochargers use the waste-exhaust energy from an engine to feed additional pressurized air into the engine’s combustion chambers, helping it burn more fuel. This means that turbochargers allow automakers to design an engine that will provide the same amount of power, or even more than naturally aspirated engines, without having to increase the engine’s size—the usual method for achieving a large power boost. Research shows that using a smaller, turbocharged engine to deliver the same performance as an engine without one cuts fuel consumption by up to six percent. (Here’s more about how turbos work.)

Start-stop systems

Another nifty piece of technology making it possible for people to drive large SUVs and pickup trucks without spending a fortune at the pump are start-stop systems. When manufacturers first introduced the technology, it was mainly used in hybrids. It’s now a common feature in internal combustion engine vehicles, including trucks.

Start-stop systems save fuel by automatically shutting a vehicle’s engine down when coming to a complete stop, such as at a red light. The system shuts off the engine when drivers release the gas pedal and fully depress the brake, and restarts it when drivers take their foot off the brake and press the gas pedal. The Ram 1500, for example, has this tech. Some estimates show that auto start-stop systems can boost fuel savings by three to five percent.

Variable valve timing and variable pumps

We expect manufacturers to continue exploring all sorts of technologies to improve the fuel economy of trucks, probably increasingly relying on variable valve timing, variable pumps, and, possibly, cylinder deactivation.

Whatever the solutions manufacturers opt for, those who love trucks can rest assured that their beloved large vehicles are only going to get more efficient.

Do you own a truck with some of these technologies? Let us know if they really help improve gas mileage in the comments below.

How to Replace a Fuel Pump

image of a fuel gauge in a car dash

So your car’s been experiencing bad fuel pump symptoms. Sounds like an expensive, time-consuming fix, right? A fuel pump replacement doesn’t have to be either of those things. With some care and attention to detail, anyone with fair mechanical proficiency and a set of hand tools can get the job done.

As with any project, be sure you have on hand all of the parts (be sure they’re the correct parts!) and tools you’ll need for the whole job. That goes double if the car you’ll be working on is your main form of transportation. If you get the tank out and realize you need another tool, you’ll be left looking for a ride.

Before you get started replacing the pump, be sure to check your tank for any leaks or other damage—since you’ll have the tank out anyway, it’ll be easy to replace the damaged fuel tank at the same time. Also check to see if your tank has a drain cock or drain plug on the bottom side of the tank. If it does, it’ll be easier to get the fuel inside the tank out.

As with most repairs or replacements on an automobile, the cost to replace a fuel pump is less if you do it yourself. So take your time, be patient, and be alert, and everything should go smoothly.

Difficulty

Intermediate: A beginner may want to steer clear of this one.

Estimated time needed

One to three hours, depending on skill level, tools available, and vehicle specifics.

What you’ll need for a fuel pump replacement


WARNING! First and foremost, remember that you’re dealing with gasoline—a highly flammable, dangerous substance. Don’t smoke while working on the fuel system and keep all sources of sparks or flame far away from the vehicle and fuel tank during the entire operation. Keep in mind that light bulbs can be very hot, so keep your incandescent shop light on the bench, and use LEDs if you need to work at night.

Also remember that static electricity from your clothes, the vehicle’s interior, or other sources can create a spark, and that spark could be deadly. When removing fuel from the tank, be sure to use a hand siphon pump. Don’t use an electric pump—there’s a risk of a spark causing an explosion.


Step-by-step guide:

  1. Disconnect the negative battery cable.
  2. With a safe workspace laid out, and your car parked on a level, firm surface, jack it up and place it on jack stands, or use a lift to provide access to the underside of the car.
  3. Relieve the fuel system pressure (How to do this varies between makes and models, so refer to the service manual for your specific vehicle).
  4. Disconnect the filler neck from the fuel tank per your service manual.
  5. Support the fuel tank with the jack and the block of wood.
  6. Remove the bolts from the straps holding the fuel tank in the vehicle.
  7. Carefully disconnect the wiring connections, fuel lines, and vent hoses on the top of the tank before fully lowering the tank.33556245572_298db82b8c_oSource | Flickr
  8. Once the connections are released, use the jack to carefully lower the tank out of the car.
  9. Clean the top of the tank around the existing fuel pump assembly to prevent any dirt or debris from falling into the tank during removal.
  10. Refer to your service manual for instructions on removing the fuel pump assembly from the tank. There’s typically a plate held in place with screws or bolts, which, once released, enables removal of the pump.
  11. Install the new pump in the opposite order you used to remove the old one.
  12. Reconnect the fuel lines, wiring connections, and vent tubes, and reinstall the fuel tank.
  13. Reconnect the fuel filler tube.
  14. Reconnect the negative battery cable.
  15. Fill the tank with gas and go for a drive to verify that you’ve properly replaced the fuel pump and that everything is in proper working order.

Got any tips on replacing a bad fuel pump that we didn’t cover? Share them in the comments.

What’s the Difference Between Car, Marine, and Lawn-Mower Batteries?

There are few things worse than turning the key and hearing nothing but a loud click, click, click, as the gauge lights fade. Your battery is dead. It’s time for a new one, but when you start your search there are, well… let’s just say “a ton of options” would be an understatement. Not all batteries are equal, and different vehicles have different requirements. Here’s what you need to know before you hit the store for a new battery.

For comparison: car batteries

All of the batteries listed here work generally the same way: A positively charged metal plate with a negatively charged plate in an electrolyte solution create an electron flow that you know as a useful electrical voltage (potential) and amperage (capacity).

Modern cars run on 12-volt electrical systems, and auto batteries are designed to work with this voltage. Manufacturers design standard flooded automotive batteries to deliver a quick burst of energy to quickly start the vehicle. We measure this by the battery’s CCA rating. A Honda Fit 1.5L can get by with lower CCA than a big block Chevy Chevelle 7.4L, so pay attention to what your ride needs.

The energy storage is shown as reserve capacity, which is less important in a car, as running the lights, radio, and such are the job of the alternator. It seems obvious, but you should stick with a car battery for cars.

Marine batteries

Starting marine batteryYou may have seen a battery at the parts store that is the size of a car battery, but the label states it’s for marine use. So what is a marine battery? A marine starting battery is quite similar to a car battery, but the differences matter. A boat battery has thicker plates so they don’t shake apart and fail under heavy wave impacts.

Also, you’ll notice the battery is rated in MCA. This is Marine Cranking Amps, which is the same as CCA, but at 32 degrees. Boat batteries have to act like a car battery for engine starting but also need to be able to provide “deep cycle” capacity for running that radio, GPS, or fish finder with the engine off. So, depending on need, there are specific starting batteries and deep cycle batteries.

Lawn batteries

lawn and garden battery

Lawn and garden batteries are, again, a different item. A battery for a riding mower doesn’t need to take on pounding waves, so it’s built more like a car battery. So how long does a lawn mower battery last? When properly maintained during the off seasons, the lawn mower battery last years, even with inconsistent use.

Lawn mower batteries are usually 12-volt. You’ll also notice they’re considerably smaller than car batteries, and tend to be cheaper, too. Lawn mower batteries often have one-third the CCA of a car battery, due to the heavier duty starter required for cars versus mowers.

Farm batteries

Farm batteries are deep cycle batteries with a CCA comparable to a car. This is because tractor engines have roughly the same electrical need at startup compared to your car or truck. On the other hand, the deep cycle is needed here due to the tractor usually running at idle or just off idle.

The tractor’s alternator can’t quite charge the battery at low engine speeds, so the battery needs to have a large reserve capacity. Farm batteries are also heavier duty than car batteries, due to the need to stand up to more bumps, ruts, and off-road work. You can use a farm battery in a car if you have to, but a car battery in a tractor won’t last long.

Golf cart batteries

Golf cart battery

Golf carts vary significantly between manufacturers and models, so the batteries vary, too. Golf carts operate on 36V or 48V electrical systems, with a set of batteries running usually 6, 8 or 12 volts. Definitely read the label before buying. With that said, they also differ in being true deep cycle batteries with a huge rating for amp hours. This is the ability to provide low power for a long time.

Unlike marine batteries that can start engines and provide deep cycle, a golf cart doesn’t have to deal with starting a large engine, so CCA isn’t a factor here. The golf cart needs reliable power for an extended period of time because the battery is the only source of power. Flooded GC batteries aren’t maintenance free. They need to be properly charged after use and electrolyte level must be checked regularly. Top off the electrolyte level in the batteries by adding distilled, deionized or demineralized water to the proper fill level. When the battery finally needs replacing, go with the same voltage as the factory batteries. For example, if your 48V cart has six 8V batteries, buy those six again rather than trying to upgrade to 12V. And don’t try to use a golf cart battery in your car, or vice versa.

Power sport batteries

Power sport battery

Your Jet Ski, snow machine, and ATV run power sport batteries that are specific to the demands of those machines. Most power sport batteries are 12-volt, like your car. That’s about where the similarities end. Smaller engines mean easier starting and thus lower CCA, so you probably wouldn’t want to run your Jet Ski battery in your F-250.

You’ll notice a bunch of different technologies in power sports, as well as some labeled “AGM.” That stands for Absorbed Glass Mat, which is a construction technique where fiberglass separators fully absorb the electrolyte and then are compressed during insertion. These batteries are highly vibration resistant, but AGM does not mean deep cycle.

AGM powersport batteries are not all the same. There are two different types: Dry Charge AGM and Factory Activated AGM. Factory Activated AGM power sport batteries allow you to take the battery off the shelf and use it immediately. Dry Charge AGM is still an AGM battery, but you have to fill the battery with acid and then charge 8-12 hours before you can use the battery.

Charging a Jet Ski battery is similar to charging a car battery, with the exception of using only the slow charge setting here, as most powersports batteries won’t like a 125V engine start setting.When it comes to batteries, the lesson of the day is: use the right battery for the right application. The batteries are internally different and will serve you well in the right vehicle. Remember, like anything else, maintenance is key. Keep it charged with a decent battery charger, and you’ll have a reliable battery that lasts for years.

How do you extend the life of your batteries? Let us know in the comments.

The 5 Coolest Classic Shifter Designs

Interior and steering wheel of a classic car

Source | Rich Helmer, Unsplash

Modern interior designs often deliver shifters that aren’t very memorable. That’s not the case with classic shifters. Those look incredibly different from today’s models but are still affordable and practical upgrades. Here are five of the most innovative, interesting, and sometimes wild shifter designs of yesteryear.

1. Ford Model T direct connection

Cars that are a century old found clever—and sometimes complicated—solutions to engineering problems. Old-timers like the Ford Model T were equipped with oddities like a two-speed planetary gear transmission. Modern manual transmission drivers will recognize the three pedals on the floor, but that’s where the similarities end. The large stick left of the driver is called a clutch lever, with the handle actuating the hand brake. The rear position is neutral with the parking brake on, while the vertical position is neutral with no brake, and forward is drive.

Confused yet? It gets worse, as the stick doesn’t select gears. The pedal on the left controls gear selection, with all the way down being first gear and all the way up being second. Need reverse? That’s the middle pedal. Yikes! Let’s move on before we cause any more headaches.

2. Cord pre-select

The last Cords were gorgeous machines and proved years ahead of their time. Late ’30s models were equipped with front-wheel drive and an automatic transmission, which sounds more like a description of a car from the ’80s. With the extreme complexity for the time, a mechanical connection from the shifter to the transmission was simply impossible.

Cord solved this problem with its pre-selector lever available on the 810. Instead of a direct link to the transmission, moving the shift lever into each gear triggers different electrical switches. These control a pneumatic system that changes gears when the clutch pedal is pressed. It looked great, and it worked even better.

3. Chrysler PowerFlite pushbutton controls

Ever really look at your modern auto shifter? Safety standards are the reason automatic transmission gear selection is ordered PRNDL in a $93,000 BMW 7 Series and a $13,000 Mitsubishi Mirage. Back in the 1950s, fewer standards to meet meant designers had free rein on design. One of those interior innovations was the pushbutton auto. With further refinement of automobile electronics in the ’50s, buttons could be mounted anywhere to remotely control the transmission.

Chrysler introduced pushbutton controls in 1956 to initial acclaim—and skepticism. While the buttons worked effectively, Chrysler left out the park button. Drivers hit the N button for neutral, then hit the parking brake to park.

4. Edsel Teletouch steering-wheel controls

Edsel was a different breed. Aside from the unusual exterior styling, the Ford-based cars used some inventive new ideas. The Teletouch was a pushbutton-operated automatic transmission with the controls in the center of the steering wheel. The idea was to get the controls closer to the driver’s hands, and while a noble thought, it probably caused confusion. Horn buttons had been mounted in the center of the steering wheel since the 1920s, so more than a few drivers probably had unfortunate reactions when they went for the horn and instead changed gears.

Ads of the era stated, “It puts shifting where it belongs.” That’s not far from the truth, but it would be another 40 years before paddle-shift controls showed up behind steering wheels and gained mainstream acceptance.

5. Oldsmobile Hurst Lightning Rods

We thought shifters were all figured out and standardized by the 1980s. We were wrong. The 1983 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme offered a heritage package celebrating 15 years of collaboration with Hurst. Famous for its shifters, Hurst continued its legacy with the Lightning Rods. Sprouting three sticks from the center console, this shifter offered the driver the choice to operate the 200R4 automatic like a regular overdrive auto or deliver full manual control of gear selection. The left stick operates with the familiar PRNDL order, so just use this one for cruising. For manual control, push all three sticks all the way back, and you are in first gear. Push the button and shift up on the right stick, and it’ll go into second. Push button, move middle stick up, and you get third. Overdrive is engaged by the left stick. Want one? Check eBay, but be prepared to pay what could have been a nice vacation.

Need a sweet shifter for your own ride? There are a lot of aftermarket performance shifters available for classic and modern vehicles, with manual or automatic transmissions. These might be chromed show pieces, or they can offer real driving enhancements like shorter handle throws. Installation takes 30 minutes to a couple of hours but can be handled by a novice with some time on their hands.

Are you ready to upgrade your shifter, or would you rather have one of the classics above? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Crucial Cars: Continental Mark II

A blue 1956 Lincoln Continental Mark II f34

Lincoln Continental Mark II f34. Source | Wikimedia Commons

To fully appreciate the Continental Mark II, you have to look at what the automotive scene in mid-1950s America was like. The economy was booming, and with flashy styling complete with jet-aircraft-inspired shapes and plenty of chrome, the luxury cars of the era were nothing if not flamboyant symbols of the mighty USA. GM’s Cadillac was far and away the No. 1 luxury brand, with Chrysler’s Imperial and Ford’s Lincoln brands trailing behind. It was high time for Ford to step up its game.

So for 1956, Ford brought out its new “Continental” division, which was slotted above the Lincoln brand and intended to beat not just Lincoln’s age-old rivals, but to battle the best from Europe, as well. Yes, that means Rolls-Royce and Mercedes-Benz. Although there was previously a Lincoln Continental model, Ford decided to repurpose the evocative Continental moniker for this new super-premium brand.

The rear of a 1956 Mark II r34

1956 Mark II r34. Source | Wikimedia Commons

Running counter to the status quo

The first model out of the new Continental factory was the 1956 Mark II, which had Cadillac’s prestigious Eldorado series squarely in the crosshairs of its iconic hood ornament. Although the Eldo, introduced three years earlier, was available in both coupe and convertible body styles, the Mark II was offered as a coupe only.

Compared to the rocket tail-finned and chrome-bedecked Eldorado, the Mark II was an exercise in tasteful restraint, with simply elegant, flowing lines and, compared to the Caddy, a minimal use of chrome. Indeed, with its low sleek body, smoothly integrated bumpers and turn signals, the Mark II looked more like a car from the late-1960s than one from the mid-1950s.

Measuring 218.4 inches long over a 126-inch wheelbase and tipping the scales at around 5,000 pounds, this was a seriously big car. Yet the Mark II’s timeless styling managed to mask the car’s massive bulk.

The steering wheel of a 1956 Mark II

1956 Mark II interior cabin. Source | Wikimedia Commons

Classy cabin

Inside it was the same story, with biscuit-style upholstery (available in a choice of fabrics or Scottish leather) and a clean dash and door panel design. Two-tone interior color schemes were available, and as with the overall styling, were subdued rather than ostentatious.

One concession to the aviation-influenced themes dominating the era was the set of controls for the heater and optional air conditioner. These looked like miniature jet-engine throttle controls. Pretty much everything anyone could want in a luxury car, apart from A/C, was standard on the Mark II, including power windows, power seat, even power vent windows.

Horsepower and heft

Although it wasn’t a jet turbine, the Mark II’s 368-cubic-inch V8 cranked out 285 horsepower (300 for 1957). Running through a three-speed automatic and charged with propelling 2.5 tons of top-of-the-line American luxury, the Continental’s V8 quietly moved the Mark II with grace, if not a lot of gusto.

Although the engine was the same one used in Lincoln’s of the day, those used in the Mark II were blueprinted—that is, assembled with the parts that had the most precise tolerances. The engines were also subjected to six hours of testing before installation in the car.

A baby blue 1956 CadillacEldorado

1956 Cadillac Eldorado. Source | Creative Commons

Profits lost but prestige gained

Make no mistake: The Continental Mark II had it all—neatly tailored styling, a plush interior, all the latest luxury gizmos, and a very smooth powertrain. It also had a price tag of around $10,000 (around $90,000 today), which was some 50 percent higher than a comparable Eldorado coupe. And Ford reportedly still lost money on each one it built due to the cost of the high-quality materials and the extensive amount of man hours involved, the latter being double that required of a Lincoln.

That first year, 2,556 units left the factory. For 1957, changes were limited to increased engine output (as stated earlier) and the relocation of the air-conditioning air intakes from the top of the rear fenders to hidden behind the grille. Production for 1957 totaled just 444 units.

As it didn’t make much business sense to build a product that cost the company money, Ford dropped the Continental Mark II after just those two years in production. Although the Mark II didn’t contribute to Ford’s bottom line, it did give the company something arguably more valuable: the prestige of having produced a modern classic.

What do you think of the Continental Mark II? Share your thoughts in the comments.

In a Vehicle Emergency? These Household Items Can Save the Day

SUV on the side of the road

Source | Jon Flobrant/Unsplash

We all face car trouble eventually. Whether it’s a vehicle that won’t start or a door that’s been frozen shut, issues crop up. Proper maintenance can prevent a lot of problems, but if you end up in a sticky situation, it’s important to know what you can and can’t use to get unstuck. Here are some simple hacks all drivers should know.

The car won’t start…

We’ve all been there—stranded in a parking lot far from home. Whether it’s because of poor battery maintenance, cold weather, or simply a dead or low battery, it can be a real headache. Luckily, there are a few things you can do on your own to help get things going again, before you go looking for a jumpstart.

A can of coke

First, pop your hood and take a look at the battery. If the terminals are really corroded you can use a can of Coke to clean them. Seriously. Coke. The reason? It’s got a relatively low pH, carbonic acid, citric acid, and phosphoric acid, as well as carbonation. When combined, they can break down the corrosion (as well as rust, tarnish, and, if you aren’t careful, your car’s paint). It will make things a bit sticky, but it will remove the corrosion and help make a better connection between the terminals and the battery clamps. Remember, this is only a temporary fix. You should invest in the right tools to clean your battery terminals, including battery cleaner spray and a wire brush.

Once you’ve cleaned the terminals, check the battery connections. More often than not the terminals have come loose and need to be readjusted. Tread carefully when doing this, though. A crossed wire can cause a fire or worse, an explosion.

Try the car again. If it doesn’t start, it’s time to think about getting a jump. You should always have jumper cables, like these from Energizer, or even a small, portable jump starter. If you do decide you need a jump, be sure to follow instructions on your jump starter, exactly. If you’re jumping a car using a fellow good samaritan’s car, follow these steps to stay safe.

The best option, as always, is to be prepared and have the right tools for the job. Do proper battery maintenance (especially if you live in a place with harsh winters) and make sure that your battery is fully charged before long road trips.

Frozen bits and pieces…

If you live anywhere in the snowbelt, you know how troublesome ice and cold weather can be. Whether you have frozen locks, doors, or get stuck on an icy patch, there are a few small hacks you can use to get sorted.

Hand sanitizer

For frozen locks, hand sanitizer is your answer. Apply a small amount on the troublesome locks, and the rubbing alcohol in it will melt the ice. Be careful around rubber seals, plastic trim, and paint, as the rubbing alcohol can affect these items.

Cooking spray

If your doors freeze shut, you probably have a small leak somewhere along your door seals or gaskets. It’s best to troubleshoot the issue before it becomes a problem. You can pick up replacement gaskets and seals at your local Advance Auto Parts store.

That said, the hack-y way to prevent doors from freezing shut when you can’t make it to Advance is to use cooking spray on the gasket. Spray down the entire ring of the doors that you want to keep from freezing and then wipe down with a paper towel. When the icy weather comes your doors should easily open.

Kitty litter

If you find yourself stuck in an icy patch and unable to move, there are a few options you have before asking someone to tow you out. First, turn off the traction control. While it seems counterintuitive, traction control tends to cut power to wheels that slip. When you’re stuck on ice, your wheels are slipping, so you need to shut it off. If that doesn’t help get you out, you can also resort to using kitty litter under your wheels. Be sure not to use the lightweight stuff, as it’s often made of paper and it won’t do much for your grip situation. The heavy, standard stuff is a better option. Pour a bit of kitty litter under your wheels in the direction you’ll be heading out. The little bit of grit should help you get some grip and get out of your icy jail.

In all these wintry situations it pays to be prepared. Always have items like an ice and snow scraper on hand to clear your car on snowy days. If you live in a place that is particularly snowy, it may even make sense to have a small snow shovel on hand.

You’re stuck in a ditch…

Rope

If you get stuck in a ditch or snow bank, it makes sense to know a little bit about physics, according to a recent story over at Wired.

Have a rope handy, and tie your car to a nearby tree. By pulling on the rope at a perpendicular angle, halfway between the car and the tree, you can exert enough leverage to pull your car out of a ditch. The story explains the fascinating physics of it in depth, if you’re interested in the why.

Lit vehicle headlight

Source | Sai Kiran Anagani/Unsplash

Your headlights are foggy…

Say you’re driving home late one night and you realize that while your headlights are on, you can’t see a thing. It’s time for a quick hack to clean those foggy lamps up.

Toothpaste

Grab a tube of toothpaste, an old towel or rag, and a bit of water to rinse. Put some toothpaste on the towel or rag, and put your elbow grease to work. Be careful not to scratch the chrome or the paint around the lights and stick to the headlight housing. Rinse and repeat if necessary!

Toothpaste is just a temporary fix. To clean your headlights the proper way, pick up a headlight-restoration kit. The cleaning agents will do a better job of defogging your headlights and, in general, are less messy than toothpaste.

A quick bumper hack…

Boiling water

Plastic bumpers that have just been pushed in can be fixed by pouring boiling water over the dent. The heat will expand the plastic and pop the dent out. It won’t always be perfect, but it will be a lot better than it was.

Got any hacks we don’t know about it? Share the knowledge and leave a comment! And remember: Hacks can be a life-saver, but they’re only temporary. Proper maintenance and the right tools are essential when you do get stuck. As always, it’s crucial to have an emergency roadside kit on hand, just in case.